The Will to Change

The Will to Change
by:  Stayce Camparo

I was invited here today to speak about the will to change, and there is obviously a lot of change for us to do. However, I hope to leave you with the idea of a different kind of change that is already in motion, and perhaps the reason for the grossly felt assault against our rights today.

I have lived abroad for 10 years – a mere blink of an eye compared to many here today, but long enough to have lost some insight into many of the struggles that women back home face. I had both of my children in Germany, where I didn’t have to spend a penny for childbirth. In fact, (through a social tax system) I was paid to be a mother, and will continue to receive a stipend for my two children until they are in their 20s. For both children, I received at-home care after childbirth by a midwife who weighed my babies every few days and helped me with breastfeeding. At the age of 1, both children entered daycare for a small monthly fee, and at three they were covered by the government through taxes. This allowed me to continue my University studies, which were also covered by taxes. Living in Germany, I am solaced to know that I have autonomy over my reproductive choices, should I want, or not want to have another child. I also know that my children are safe at school, as opposed to my home country that is in the midst of a gun violence pandemic. These are probably many of the luxuries you have also experienced. Many of my contemporaries living in the U.S. have had very different experiences, and WILL have very different experiences. In fact, some of you today would say that our country is backsliding on many issues that concern women, and I too see that our country is not in a good place, however it would be remiss not to acknowledge the counter waves of social movements we’ve recently witnessed, triggered perhaps by … a more political youth, or … even as a consequence of perhaps social media. Regardless of where it is coming from, there seems to be a determined will of the people to seek change.

This may seem more anecdotal than objectively true, so I want to look at our history in order to visualize the trajectory of this change. Sapiens have walked the Earth for roughly 200,000 years. 190,000 years ago, we revolutionized how we feed ourselves and live. Historians define this time as the Agricultural Revolution, a time when women were able to, and encouraged to, reproduce at a fast pace, thus increasing exponentially the fertility rate. Consequentially, cities grew, and societies became more complex, and sets of imagined constructs were developed that organized society and created stability, including the expected roles of women and men. Many of these imagined constructs are still around today, and are witnessed in various forms of caste systems, ethnic, cultural, or gender with women usually towards the bottom of any particular caste. The development of writing allowed these imagined constructs to circulate, and provided tangible documentation of what would become, a widely accepted imagined social order. In 1776, one of these imagined constructs was signed by our founding fathers as the Declaration of Independence with an established hierarchy of men at the top and women at the bottom; white Europeans at the top, and Black and Native American people at the bottom. Around 9,200 years after the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution began, that not only changed the course of human history, but also the biological history that we would experience on this planet. Our imagined constructs remained, and many of the breakthroughs and leadership decisions were carried out by the privileged who had access to opportunities that were established by our imagined constructs. These constructs have been met with waves of challenge, marking periods of good social change, but I would say that the rate of challenge is increasing. About 150 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, white women earned the right to vote, and 50 years later black women were also finally able to exercise that right. New language was added to “an invented formulation of laws by which to govern the United States,” known as the Constitution. Eight years after that triumph, a group of scholars educated on these laws, also known as the Supreme Court ruled, on the basis of privacy, that a woman could finally exercise reproductive choice under protection of the Constitution. Seven years ago, a major and long-established imagined construct was reversed to allow women and men to marry whom they chose, and not on the basis of gender. Five years ago, the hashtag, “me too” propelled sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape culture back into the public sphere, and has motivated large institutions to reevaluate imagined constructs about gender and sex. Galvanized by the election of Donald Trump to presidency in 2016, political movements that continue to challenge these imagined constructs, that have sustained time, are becoming widely and rapidly confirmed as false. We see that much of this progress is in danger today, but we should remain cognizant that progress is not always linear.

Hopefully, what this digression in human history has conveyed is that our world is changing…and it is changing fast. Two years ago, we elected a democratic president, and begot the most diverse cabinet the United States has EVER seen. Look around our society as well. I just became aware that a ballet company in the Pacific Northwest has for the first time cast a transgender female as a swan in Swan Lake, spurring a ripple of other companies to make similar changes. I am only 8 years retired from the professional world of ballet, and even when I was still dancing, this was not a topic of social justice people were ready to act on. This is good news! Our world is progressing…the United States is progressing…we are becoming a more inclusive, egalitarian society. However…power is being held by a few…a few who are scared about this progress and change…this new and equal world, where lines are blended, and power is held by the many rather than the few; where power is shared with those who have historically been at the bottom of our imagined orders of society. These obstructionists to change are working hard to hold onto their last fledglings of stability and security. But they will be gone…and people like my son and daughter will still be here. No one, not even the few with some power to yield, are able to crush the steam roller of progress that is upon us and moving fast. This change is the will of the people. I believe that what we are witnessing in terms of a felt reversal of democracy, and rights for women, is only a last attempt at maintaining an imagined status quo that has been nullified by the people of the United States, and many societies beyond. It is because of your work the last 30 years, here at the Global Women’s Caucus, that we are moving forward so fast. We should see the resistance by the few, and temporary reversals, as a clear sign that we are headed in the right direction. We are deciding as a human race: in what world we want to live in… Under what imagined constructs we choose to live our lives. We are conceding, together, universally, that a future of feminism is preferrable…that a future of equality is preferrable. And I see, that in a world where a blank piece of paper is a political statement, that, globally, people are challenging the outdated imagined constructs, and raising generations wanting to live under new ones.

The future of the feminist movement, and of democracy, is built within our unified sisterhood here at the Global Women’s Caucus. Our responsibility is unifying the millions of Americans living outside the U.S., and guiding them into active participation in the decisions being made back home…because those decisions not only affect our fellow Americans, but, in our globalized world, they affect citizens of all countries. That is what we are doing, and that is what we should continue to do. And we should recognize that this work is not necessarily for us. This work is for those who continue to be marginalized, exploited, and oppressed, who will sadly be affected by the rescinding of Roe v. Wade, and other reversals we are surely to face. We cannot be discouraged by this however, and we should not be complacent either. This kind of structural change begins in the kitchen of our homes, and in the playgrounds with our children, on walks with our neighbors, and in the many small and intimate gatherings that connect us. It begins when we speak about values and empathy, and continues as we build new communities away from home. This is our will…nothing different than what we have been doing, but rather a continuation of those small steps that will make our change irreversible…the small steps that are breaking down those archaic imagined constructs, and cultivating communities that internalize basic human rights. If the last 30 years have shown us anything, it is that our will and strength lies within those communities we build at the Global Women’s Caucus, the relationships we are fostering by being together today, and the new connections surely to be made tomorrow. Thank you.

 

This may seem more anecdotal than objectively true, so I want to look at our history in order to visualize the trajectory of this change. Sapiens have walked the Earth for roughly 200,000 years. 190,000 years ago, we revolutionized how we feed ourselves and live. Historians define this time as the Agricultural Revolution, a time when women were able to, and encouraged to, reproduce at a fast pace, thus increasing exponentially the fertility rate. Consequentially, cities grew, and societies became more complex, and sets of imagined constructs were developed that organized society and created stability, including the expected roles of women and men. Many of these imagined constructs are still around today, and are witnessed in various forms of caste systems, ethnic, cultural, or gender with women usually towards the bottom of any particular caste. The development of writing allowed these imagined constructs to circulate, and provided tangible documentation of what would become, a widely accepted imagined social order. In 1776, one of these imagined constructs was signed by our founding fathers as the Declaration of Independence with an established hierarchy of men at the top and women at the bottom; white Europeans at the top, and Black and Native American people at the bottom. Around 9,200 years after the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution began, that not only changed the course of human history, but also the biological history that we would experience on this planet. Our imagined constructs remained, and many of the breakthroughs and leadership decisions were carried out by the privileged who had access to opportunities that were established by our imagined constructs. These constructs have been met with waves of challenge, marking periods of good social change, but I would say that the rate of challenge is increasing. About 150 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, white women earned the right to vote, and 50 years later black women were also finally able to exercise that right. New language was added to “an invented formulation of laws by which to govern the United States,” known as the Constitution. Eight years after that triumph, a group of scholars educated on these laws, also known as the Supreme Court ruled, on the basis of privacy, that a woman could finally exercise reproductive choice under protection of the Constitution. Seven years ago, a major and long-established imagined construct was reversed to allow women and men to marry whom they chose, and not on the basis of gender. Five years ago, the hashtag, “me too” propelled sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape culture back into the public sphere, and has motivated large institutions to reevaluate imagined constructs about gender and sex. Galvanized by the election of Donald Trump to presidency in 2016, political movements that continue to challenge these imagined constructs, that have sustained time, are becoming widely and rapidly confirmed as false. We see that much of this progress is in danger today, but we should remain cognizant that progress is not always linear.

Hopefully, what this digression in human history has conveyed is that our world is changing…and it is changing fast. Two years ago, we elected a democratic president, and begot the most diverse cabinet the United States has EVER seen. Look around our society as well. I just became aware that a ballet company in the Pacific Northwest has for the first time cast a transgender female as a swan in Swan Lake, spurring a ripple of other companies to make similar changes. I am only 8 years retired from the professional world of ballet, and even when I was still dancing, this was not a topic of social justice people were ready to act on. This is good news! Our world is progressing…the United States is progressing…we are becoming a more inclusive, egalitarian society. However…power is being held by a few…a few who are scared about this progress and change…this new and equal world, where lines are blended, and power is held by the many rather than the few; where power is shared with those who have historically been at the bottom of our imagined orders of society. These obstructionists to change are working hard to hold onto their last fledglings of stability and security. But they will be gone…and people like my son and daughter will still be here. No one, not even the few with some power to yield, are able to crush the steam roller of progress that is upon us and moving fast. This change is the will of the people. I believe that what we are witnessing in terms of a felt reversal of democracy, and rights for women, is only a last attempt at maintaining an imagined status quo that has been nullified by the people of the United States, and many societies beyond. It is because of your work the last 30 years, here at the Global Women’s Caucus, that we are moving forward so fast. We should see the resistance by the few, and temporary reversals, as a clear sign that we are headed in the right direction. We are deciding as a human race: in what world we want to live in… Under what imagined constructs we choose to live our lives. We are conceding, together, universally, that a future of feminism is preferrable…that a future of equality is preferrable. And I see, that in a world where a blank piece of paper is a political statement, that, globally, people are challenging the outdated imagined constructs, and raising generations wanting to live under new ones.

The future of the feminist movement, and of democracy, is built within our unified sisterhood here at the Global Women’s Caucus. Our responsibility is unifying the millions of Americans living outside the U.S., and guiding them into active participation in the decisions being made back home…because those decisions not only affect our fellow Americans, but, in our globalized world, they affect citizens of all countries. That is what we are doing, and that is what we should continue to do. And we should recognize that this work is not necessarily for us. This work is for those who continue to be marginalized, exploited, and oppressed, who will sadly be affected by the rescinding of Roe v. Wade, and other reversals we are surely to face. We cannot be discouraged by this however, and we should not be complacent either. This kind of structural change begins in the kitchen of our homes, and in the playgrounds with our children, on walks with our neighbors, and in the many small and intimate gatherings that connect us. It begins when we speak about values and empathy, and continues as we build new communities away from home. This is our will…nothing different than what we have been doing, but rather a continuation of those small steps that will make our change irreversible…the small steps that are breaking down those archaic imagined constructs, and cultivating communities that internalize basic human rights. If the last 30 years have shown us anything, it is that our will and strength lies within those communities we build at the Global Women’s Caucus, the relationships we are fostering by being together today, and the new connections surely to be made tomorrow. Thank you.